Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 points in his NBA career -- a big reason why a spot is now reserved for his image in bronze outside Staples Center. On Nov. 16, it will become the sixth artwork in an extremely popular array of sports statuary at the venue.
The unveiling announced Thursday by the Los Angeles Lakers, who co-commissioned the piece with Staples Center, means another score for the Rottblatt-Amrany studio of Highwood, Ill., which created the three statues of Lakers greats already on the plaza.
The statue of Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, will join one of his teammate from the 1980s “Showtime” Lakers, Earvin “Magic” Johnson (2004), as well as Jerry West (2011) and announcer Chick Hearn (2010).
Erik Blome, who also is based near Chicago, sculpted the two other figures on the plaza outside the arena’s northeast entrance: hockey great Wayne Gretzky (2002) and boxer Oscar De La Hoya (2008).
Of the Lakers likenesses, the husband-wife team of Omri Amrany and Julie Rottblatt Amrany sculpted Abdul-Jabbar, Hearn and West, while Omri Amrany and Gary Tillery teamed for the statue of Johnson -- a reworked version of the younger Magic they had created previously for Michigan State University, whose 1979 national championship team Johnson led.
Ultra-detailed realism is a studio signature -- down to the traction grooves and brand mark in the soles of West’s sneakers.
The Rottblatt-Amrany studio doesn’t specialize in Lakers -- its credits at other arenas and stadiums include Wilt Chamberlain in his Philadelphia 76ers days (he later also starred with the Lakers); Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls; Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Carey; baseball Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg and Walter Johnson; Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi and a memorial to Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back who volunteered for action in Afghanistan and was killed in battle.
Abdul-Jabbar’s signature shot was called the “skyhook” because, given that he was 7-foot 2 tall, had extremely long arms and could jump, that’s where it seemed to come from for defenders trying to block it. Has he been rendered in bronze at the moment of launching one?
Lakers spokesman John Black said the public will have to wait and see. “We want it to be a surprise. It’s an image of Kareem that the public will be familiar with, and we’re confident they’ll like it a lot.”